Matt Sharp has been in the music business for over a decade, but with the release of his self-titled solo debut, he finds himself back where he started, when he was Weezer's falsetto-singing bassist.
"There were no expectations for that Weezer record," Sharp explains. "This record is like that."
Sharp and Weezer grew apart when Weezer's lead singer, Rivers Cuomo, put the band on hold. Sharp continued on with his own project, The Rentals, before breaking up the group after their second album, Seven More Minutes. Despite the long gap between releases, Sharp never questioned his career path.
"There's no other choice for me," he says. "Other than music, I don't have any other skills or interests."
Sharp retreated to Liepers Fork, a small town in Tennessee, to record many of the songs that appear on his solo EP, Puckett's Versus the Country Boy, and his new solo album. He also filed a lawsuit against Cuomo and Weezer for songwriting credit and royalties. In Liepers Fork, Sharp aimed for a simpler, raw sound.
"It was at odds with what people thought I should be doing," he says.
In Liepers Fork, Sharp was focused on getting away from the complexity that marked his previous studio release, The Rentals' Seven More Minutes. With that album, Sharp created "towering anthems" for an important woman in his life.
"The message would have been clearer if I just say down with her, taken a guitar, and said it to her," he explains. "Seven More Minutes was a declaration of love. I was trying to pull out all of the banners, the whistles and the parades."
With his solo debut, Sharp wanted to get away from statements. "It's about questions, not declarations," he says. "When we started, we were not necessarily making an album, we were documenting ideas."
Shortly before the album's release, Sharp had a public reunion with Rivers Cuomo at a California show. The duo played two Weezer songs, a Rentals song, and "Time Song," a piece that they wrote together. Sharp mentioned that the two wrote together over the past few months, although they have no specific plans for the material. Before reuniting with Cuomo, Sharp found strength from a similar situation.
"I ran into an old friend, a friend I should've stood by in the past," Sharp says. "If there is one person who could've been bitter, it was him, but he was able to be so open. It made geting back together with Rivers easier."
With a fall tour approaching, Sharp cannot plan what songs will appear on setlists, but he is certain that he will approach them with the honesty and intimacy that his fans are accustomed to.
"Doing this instead of rock allows the mood to dictate what you are going to play," Sharp explains. "That was never the case in a band, where there was only one mission."
Sharp says that he cannot see himself going back to "distorting guitars," although he has not ruled out another Rentals album. Whether or not that happens, he feels that his work will be pure and honest.
"I want to be able to play something that I am proud of. I want it to feel good, to be honest," Sharp states. "With Weezer, we were in a place where we set our egos aside, making music that people would like to hear. I find myself back in that position, making music people can be inspired by"